‘Old establishment stranglehold over’
In a 500-word diatribe directed in part against critics of Blair County Commissioner Bruce Erb, former Bill Shuster campaign staffer William Straesser alleges that Amy Webster’s campaign was financed by an unnamed “outside organization.”
That isn’t true, although we have little doubt Straesser has been told it is.
Rather than acknowledging the electorate’s overwhelming endorsement of Webster and her promise to rid the courthouse of cronyism, Erb’s disappointed supporters have engaged in a misinformation campaign in desperate hopes of impairing her credibility and preventing her from cleaning house.
The organization Straesser intends to defame is the PAC set up by the Blair County Taxpayers’ Alliance (BCTA), a group made up entirely of county homeowners infuriated by the incompetence, malfeasance and deception they encountered during the botched property re-assessment of 2016.
Not a single dime raised by the PAC came from outside the county. Any claims to the contrary are pure fiction.
When the BCTA attempted to sue the county to halt reassessment pending an independent review, the county lawyer argued, in essence, that “the plaintiffs don’t have a legal problem. They have a political problem. They should take their complaints to the electorate, not to the courts.”
That’s precisely what we did.
We mobilized hundreds of people and raised a great deal of money in support of a genuinely conservative candidate we trusted to defend the ordinary taxpayer, Webster (who was also a BCTA board member).
We found a huge reservoir of support in the community. Our message of clean governance, and the interviews we conducted with local taxpayers injured by the reassessment, were transformed into one most effective political media campaigns the county has ever seen.
Unsurprisingly, our success angered those who have reflexively supported the long-prevailing, seemingly permanent system of political patronage in Blair County.
A torrent of calculated defamation and abuse appeared on social media attacking BCTA’s leaders and Webster herself. But the PAC had allowed concerned taxpayers to donate anonymously without fear of retaliation. That’s why the intimidation effort — “political gamesmanship,” Erb’s political consultant called it –was rendered powerless.
So while Commissioner Erb has now aligned with the liberal Democrat Laura Burke to try to contain Webster and the conservative taxpayer insurrection she represents, the fact remains that the old establishment’s stranglehold on power is over.
And we trust Erb will remember that the persistent appearance of impropriety in county government — illustrated so starkly by the appalling abuses of the 2016 reassessment — now elicits both popular scrutiny and political consequences.